In 2008, when I began writing In Transit, the Alberta government’s $2-billion GreenTRIP program was already off to a slow start.
Two years later, as I write this final column, I want to be able to tell you that all those LRT expansion plans I’ve reported on are finally getting a big share of that money.
The province did re-announce the program with $800 million for the Edmonton region last week, but the details are still fuzzy.
Fuzzy is good enough for the city to start ordering LRT cars and tendering contracts for the NAIT extension, so I guess it’s good enough for me.
The money still has to be fully committed and a timeline set; however, it’s another step forward in what has been a pretty good two years as far as transit in Edmonton goes.
Two years ago, the city’s LRT plan consisted of six thick arrows on a tiny map. All but one of those arrows is now sharply in focus, with an entirely new line from the west to the southeast all mapped out.
Getting the details right will be the next challenge — from redeveloping the City Centre Airport to resisting road widening — and council seems to be headed in the right direction.
While these two years have mainly been about playing catch-up on LRT, there’s been other progress as well. The bus fleet is now 100 per cent low floor, and eight new routes have bike racks.
Trip planning has been a breeze since the city opened up its schedules to Google, which is good since the new beta ETS Trip Planner is still terrible.
The city also managed to secure a — thankfully only temporary — park-and-ride lot at Century Park, and a new reserved space program will help ensure drivers couldn’t have just bused or walked.
Sure, there’s still no late night transit or overhauled bus network — or service to the international airport for that matter, thanks to administration assuming five passengers per trip when 10 would have generated a profit.
There’s also the possibility the next couple years of scheduled fare increases will come early, but council is suggesting it won’t accept that budget recommendation — at least not until after the fall election.
By that point we could see a few more bus-riding councillors tip the scales to roll back the fare hikes and make movement on other needed service improvements. That last one is really up to you.
– Brian Gould is a transportation planner and has served in a variety of roles with the Transit Riders’ Union of Edmonton.
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